“God Is Love”
“He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love.”—1 JOHN 4:8.
1-3. (a) What statement does the Bible make about Jehovah’s attribute of love, and in what way is this statement unique? (b) Why does the Bible say that “God is love”?
ALL of Jehovah’s attributes are sterling, perfect, and appealing. But the most endearing of all of Jehovah’s qualities is love. Nothing else draws us so powerfully to Jehovah as his love. Happily, love is also his dominant quality. How do we know that?
2 The Bible says something about love that it never says about Jehovah’s other cardinal attributes. The Scriptures do not say that God is power or that God is justice or even that God is wisdom. He possesses those qualities and is the ultimate source of all three. About love, though, something more profound is said at 1 John 4:8: “God is love.” Yes, love runs very deep in Jehovah. It is his very essence, or nature. Generally speaking, we might think of it this way: Jehovah’s power enables him to act. His justice and his wisdom guide the way he acts. However, Jehovah’s love motivates him to act. And his love is always reflected in the way he uses his other attributes.
3 It is often said that Jehovah is the very personification of love. Hence, if we want to learn about love, we must learn about Jehovah. Let us, then, examine some of the facets of Jehovah’s matchless love.
The Greatest Act of Love
4, 5. (a) What is the greatest act of love in all history? (b) Why can we say that Jehovah and his Son are united by the strongest bond of love ever forged?
4 Jehovah has shown love in many ways, but there is one that stands out above all others. What is it? It is his sending his Son to suffer and die for us. We can safely say that this is the greatest act of love in all history. Why can we say that?
5 The Bible calls Jesus “the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15) Just think—Jehovah’s Son was in existence before the physical universe. How long, then, were Father and Son together? Some scientists estimate that the universe is 13 billion years old. Yet, even if this estimate is correct, it would not be long enough to represent the life span of Jehovah’s firstborn Son! How was he occupied during all those ages? The Son joyfully served as his Father’s “master worker.” (Proverbs 8:30; John 1:3) Jehovah and his Son worked together to bring all other things into being. What thrilling, happy times they had! Who of us, then, can begin to fathom the power of a bond that has existed over such an immense span of time? Clearly, Jehovah God and his Son are united by the strongest bond of love ever forged.
6. When Jesus got baptized, how did Jehovah express his feelings about His Son?
6 Nevertheless, Jehovah dispatched his Son to the earth to be born as a human baby. Doing so meant that for some decades, Jehovah had to forgo intimate association with his beloved Son in heaven. With intense interest, He watched from heaven as Jesus grew up to be a perfect man. At about 30 years of age, Jesus got baptized. On that occasion the Father spoke personally from heaven: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matthew 3:17) Seeing that Jesus faithfully did all that had been prophesied, all that was asked of him, his Father must have been so pleased!—John 5:36; 17:4.
7, 8. (a) What was Jesus put through on Nisan 14, 33 C.E., and how was his heavenly Father affected? (b) Why did Jehovah allow his Son to suffer and die?
7 How, though, did Jehovah feel on Nisan 14, 33 C.E., as Jesus was betrayed and then arrested by an angry mob? As Jesus was ridiculed, spat upon, and struck with fists? As he was scourged, his back torn to ribbons? As he was nailed, hands and feet, to a wooden pole and left to hang there while people reviled him? How did the Father feel as his beloved Son cried out to him in the throes of agony? How did Jehovah feel as Jesus breathed his last and, for the first time since the dawn of all creation, His dear Son was not in existence?—Matthew 26:14-16, 46, 47, 56, 59, 67; 27:26, 38-44, 46; John 19:1.
8 Since Jehovah has feelings, the pain he must have suffered over the death of his Son is beyond the power of our words to express. What can be expressed is Jehovah’s motive for having allowed it to happen. Why did the Father subject himself to such pain? Jehovah reveals something wonderful to us at John 3:16—a Bible verse so important that it has been called the Gospel in miniature. It says: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” So God’s motive amounted to this: love. No greater love has ever been shown.
How Jehovah Assures Us of His Love
9. What does Satan want us to believe about Jehovah’s view of us, but of what does Jehovah assure us?
9 However, an important question arises: Does God love us personally? Some may agree that God loves mankind in general, as John 3:16 says. But they feel, in effect, ‘God could never love me as an individual.’ The fact is that Satan the Devil is eager for us to believe that Jehovah neither loves us nor values us. On the other hand, no matter how unlovable or worthless we may think we are, Jehovah assures us that each of his faithful servants is of value to him.
10, 11. How does Jesus’ illustration of the sparrows show that we have value in Jehovah’s eyes?
10 For example, consider Jesus’ words recorded at Matthew 10:29-31. Illustrating the worth of his disciples, Jesus said: “Do not two sparrows sell for a coin of small value? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore have no fear: you are worth more than many sparrows.” Consider what those words meant to Jesus’ first-century listeners.
11 In Jesus’ day the sparrow was the cheapest of the birds sold as food. For one coin of small value, a buyer got two sparrows. But Jesus later stated, according to Luke 12:6, 7, that if a person spent two coins, he got, not four sparrows, but five. The extra bird was added in as though it had no value at all. Perhaps such birds were worthless in the eyes of men, but how did the Creator view them? Jesus said: “Not one of them [not even the one added in] goes forgotten before God.” Now we may begin to see Jesus’ point. Since Jehovah places such value on a single sparrow, of how much greater worth is a human! As Jesus said, Jehovah knows every detail about us. Why, the very hairs of our head are numbered!
12. Why can we be sure that Jesus was being realistic when he spoke of the hairs of our head being numbered?
12 Some might assume that Jesus was exaggerating here. Just think, though, about the resurrection. How intimately Jehovah must know us in order to re-create us! He values us so much that he remembers every detail, including our complex genetic code and all our years of memories and experiences. Numbering our hairs—of which the average human head grows about 100,000—would be a simple feat by comparison. How beautifully Jesus’ words assure us that Jehovah cares for us as individuals!
13. How does the case of King Jehoshaphat show that Jehovah looks for the good in us even though we are imperfect?
13 The Bible reveals something else that assures us of Jehovah’s love. He looks for and values the good in us. Take, for example, good King Jehoshaphat. When the king committed a foolish act, Jehovah’s prophet told him: “For this there is indignation against you from the person of Jehovah.” What a sobering thought! But Jehovah’s message did not end there. It went on: “Nevertheless, there are good things that have been found with you.” (2 Chronicles 19:1-3) So Jehovah’s righteous anger did not blind him to the “good things” about Jehoshaphat. Is it not reassuring to know that our God looks for the good in us even though we are imperfect?
A God Who Is “Ready to Forgive”
14. When we sin, what burdensome feelings may we experience, but how may we benefit from Jehovah’s forgiveness?
14 When we sin, the disappointment, shame, and guilt that we feel may cause us to think that we could never be worthy of serving Jehovah. Remember, though, that Jehovah is “ready to forgive.” (Psalm 86:5) Yes, if we repent of our sins and strive hard not to repeat them, we may benefit from Jehovah’s forgiveness. Consider how the Bible describes this marvelous facet of Jehovah’s love.
15. How far away from us does Jehovah put our sins?
15 The psalmist David used a vivid expression to describe Jehovah’s forgiveness: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Italics ours; Psalm 103:12, The Amplified Bible) How far is east from west? In a sense, east is always at the utmost distance imaginable from west; the two points can never meet. One scholar notes that this expression means “as far as possible; as far as we can imagine.” David’s inspired words tell us that when Jehovah forgives, he puts our sins as far away from us as we can imagine.
16. When Jehovah forgives our sins, why may we feel assured that he views us as clean thereafter?
16 Have you ever tried to remove a stain from a light-colored garment? Perhaps despite your best efforts, the stain remained visible. Notice how Jehovah describes his capacity for forgiveness: “Though the sins of you people should prove to be as scarlet, they will be made white just like snow; though they should be red like crimson cloth, they will become even like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) The word “scarlet” denotes a bright-red color.* “Crimson” was one of the deep colors of dyed material. We can never through our own efforts remove the stain of sin. Yet, Jehovah can take sins that are like scarlet and crimson and make them white like snow or undyed wool. So when Jehovah forgives our sins, we need not feel that we bear the stain of such sins for the rest of our life.
17. In what sense does Jehovah throw our sins behind his back?
17 In a moving song of gratitude that Hezekiah composed after he was spared from a deadly sickness, he said to Jehovah: “You have thrown behind your back all my sins.” (Isaiah 38:17) Jehovah is here portrayed as taking the sins of a repentant wrongdoer and throwing them behind Him where He neither sees them nor takes notice of them anymore. According to one reference work, the idea conveyed may be expressed: “You have made [my sins] as if they had not happened.” Is that not comforting?
18. How does the prophet Micah indicate that when Jehovah forgives, He removes our sins permanently?
18 In a promise of restoration, the prophet Micah expressed his conviction that Jehovah would forgive his repentant people: “Who is a God like you, . . . passing over transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? . . . And you will throw into the depths of the sea all their sins.” (Micah 7:18, 19) Imagine what those words meant to people living in Bible times. Was there any chance of retrieving something that had been hurled “into the depths of the sea”? Micah’s words thus indicate that when Jehovah forgives, he removes our sins permanently.
“The Tender Compassion of Our God”
19, 20. (a) What is the meaning of the Hebrew verb rendered “show mercy” or “have pity”? (b) How does the Bible use the feelings that a mother has for her baby to teach us about Jehovah’s compassion?
19 Compassion is another facet of Jehovah’s love. What is compassion? In the Bible, there is a close relationship between compassion and mercy. A number of Hebrew and Greek words convey the sense of compassion. For example, the Hebrew verb ra·chamʹ is often rendered “show mercy” or “have pity.” This Hebrew term, which Jehovah applies to himself, is related to the word for “womb” and can be described as “motherly compassion.”
20 The Bible uses the feelings that a mother has for her baby to teach us about Jehovah’s compassion. Isaiah 49:15 says: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should not have compassion [ra·chamʹ] on the son of her womb? Yes, they may forget, yet I will not forget you.” (The Amplified Bible) It is hard to imagine that a mother would forget to nourish and care for her nursing child. After all, an infant is helpless; day and night a baby needs its mother’s attention. Sad to say, however, maternal neglect is not unheard of, especially in these “critical times.” (2 Timothy 3:1, 3) “Yet,” Jehovah declares, “I will not forget you.” The tender compassion that Jehovah has for his servants is immeasurably stronger than the most tender natural feeling that we can imagine—the compassion that a mother normally feels for her infant child.
21, 22. What did the Israelites experience in ancient Egypt, and how did Jehovah respond to their outcries?
21 How does Jehovah, like a loving parent, show compassion? This quality is clearly seen in the way he dealt with Israel of old. By the end of the 16th century B.C.E., millions of Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, where they were severely oppressed. (Exodus 1:11, 14) In their distress, the Israelites cried out to Jehovah. How did the God of compassion respond?
22 Jehovah’s heart was touched. He said: “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their outcry . . . I well know the pains they suffer.” (Exodus 3:7) Jehovah could not see the sufferings of his people or hear their outcries without feeling for them. Jehovah is a God of empathy. And empathy—the ability to identify with the pain of others—is akin to compassion. However, Jehovah did not just feel for his people; he was moved to act in their behalf. Isaiah 63:9 says: “In his love and in his compassion he himself repurchased them.” With “a strong hand,” he rescued the Israelites out of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 4:34) Thereafter, he provided them with miraculous food and delivered them into a fruitful land of their own.
23. (a) How do the psalmist’s words assure us that Jehovah is deeply concerned about us as individuals? (b) In what ways does Jehovah help us?
23 Jehovah does not show compassion to his people only as a group. Our loving God is deeply concerned about us as individuals. He is keenly aware of any suffering we may undergo. The psalmist said: “The eyes of Jehovah are toward the righteous ones, and his ears are toward their cry for help. Jehovah is near to those that are broken at heart; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.” (Psalm 34:15, 18) How does Jehovah help us as individuals? He does not necessarily remove the cause of our suffering. But he has made abundant provisions for those who cry out to him for help. His Word offers practical counsel that can make a difference. In the congregation, he provides spiritually qualified overseers, who endeavor to reflect his compassion in helping others. (James 5:14, 15) As the “Hearer of prayer,” Jehovah gives “holy spirit to those asking him.” (Psalm 65:2; Luke 11:13) All such provisions are expressions of “the tender compassion of our God.”—Luke 1:78.
24. How will you respond to Jehovah’s love?
24 Is it not thrilling to contemplate our heavenly Father’s love? In the preceding article, we were reminded that Jehovah has exercised his power, justice, and wisdom in loving ways to our benefit. And in this article, we have seen that Jehovah has directly expressed his love for mankind—and for us individually—in remarkable ways. Now, each of us does well to ask, ‘How will I respond to Jehovah’s love?’ May you respond by loving him with your whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. (Mark 12:29, 30) May the way you live your life each day reflect your heartfelt desire to draw ever closer to Jehovah. And may Jehovah, the God who is love, draw ever closer to you—throughout all eternity!—James 4:8.
One scholar says that scarlet “was a fast, or fixed colour. Neither dew, nor rain, nor washing, nor long usage, would remove it.”
Do You Recall?
• How do we know that love is Jehovah’s dominant quality?
• Why can it be said that Jehovah’s sending his Son to suffer and die for us is the greatest act of love ever performed?
• How does Jehovah assure us that he loves us as individuals?
• In what vivid ways does the Bible describe Jehovah’s forgiveness?
[Picture on page 15]
“God . . . gave his only-begotten Son”
[Picture on page 16, 17]
“You are worth more than many sparrows”
© J. Heidecker/VIREO
[Picture on page 18]
A mother’s feelings for her baby can teach us about Jehovah’s compassion